10 Rules For Lending Books

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U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman J.T. Armstrong

I saw a post from Bustle yesterday on “15 Rules for Borrowing Books, So You Don’t Lose Your Friends in the Process.” The article didn’t say anything about lending, so I thought I might propose a few rules for lenders, with the basic idea that you don’t want to lose friends over books. I really don’t think I can come up with 15, but here goes…

1. Basically, say good-bye to a book when you lend it. Just let it go, because there is a high likelihood you will never see it again. Is it really worth more than your friend?

2. If a book has special meaning to you (family heirloom, heavily annotated, a part of a set, or a reference you use regularly and need), don’t lend it. Just be honest and say, “this book has special meaning for me, or has been in the family, or is something I use regularly.” True friends will understand.

3. A book plate (ex libris) with your name may help. Sometimes people honestly forget from whom a book is borrowed.

4. Don’t lend a book if you need it or plan to read it soon. Again, just explain that. Offer to lend it after you’ve read it.

5. View lending as an easy way to clear out excess books from our shelves. Most of us have more books than shelves. A quoted attributed to Joe Queenen says, “Lending books to other people is merely a shrewd form of housecleaning.”

6. If repeat borrowers who don’t return books bothers you, set a limit. Just let your friend know that you only lend two books (or whatever number seems right to you) at a time to someone, and would be glad to lend the book they want when they’ve finished the others they’ve borrowed and returned them. Of course you have to decide if keeping that close a track of what you’ve lent matters.

7. Consider what the book meant to you. If it was beneficial, do you want to keep that to yourself, letting the book collect dust on your shelves. Lending a book can open up conversations with friends such as “did you see what I saw in this book?”

8. Don’t lend books you’ve borrowed, unless the owner says it is OK, and who owns the book is clear so that it can get back to them.

9. On the other hand, if you really are not concerned about getting the book back, let the person know they are free to pass it along after they have finished reading it. If a book is really good, shouldn’t it pass through many hands?

10. Think of lending books as a way of stocking your library in heaven. I take comfort in these words by C. S. Lewis:

My friend said, “I don’t see why there shouldn’t be books in Heaven. But you will find that your library in Heaven contains only some of the books you had on earth.” “Which?” I asked. “The ones you gave away or lent.” “I hope the lent ones won’t still have all the borrowers’ dirty thumb marks,” said I. “Oh yes they will,” said he. “But just as the wounds of the martyrs will have turned into beauties, so you will find that the thumb-marks have turned into beautiful illuminated capitals or exquisite marginal woodcuts.*

*C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 216.

Review: Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to PemberleyP. D. James. New York: Vintage Books, 2013

Summary: P.D. James writes a murder mystery as a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Jane Austen knock-offs are a cottage industry. Even a former neighbor of ours, Regina Jeffers, has written a whole series of Jane Austen books. Among those to try her hand at this genre is accomplished mystery writer, P.D. James. Over the years, I’ve delighted in her Adam Dalgleish mysteries, and though I’m not among the Austen fans, I thought I’d pick this up.

The story takes up six years into the marriage of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth’s sister Lydia has married George Wickham, childhood friend of Darcy, but is banned from Pemberley after attempting to seduce Darcy’s sister, Georgiana. There has always been something a bit disreputable about Wickham, but he distinguished himself in the Irish rebellion, and since leaving the military has bounced around in different jobs, leaning on family and others for support. It is the day before the annual Lady Anne Ball, the big social event at the Darcy estate. Fitzwilliam Darcy is on hand, hoping to win Georgiana’s hand, even while a newcomer, Mr. Alveston, a lawyer from London, takes the inside track. The whole household is busy at their work, including the elderly servant Bidwell, who refuses to go home to his family living in the forest on the estate, even though his son is declining toward death.

Wickham, Lydia, and Captain Denny, friend of Wickham show up at the Pemberley estate, cutting through the forest. The plan was to leave Lydia at the Darcy house while they went on to an errand. Words arise between Wickham and Captain Denny, who leaves the carriage, plunging into the forest, to be followed shortly by Wickham. Lydia and her driver wait, then hear shots fired. They go to Pemberley for help. A search party finds a drunken and distraught Wickham, covered in blood over the dead body of Captain Denny. His first words were, “He’s dead! Oh God, Denny’s dead! He was my friend, my only friend, and I’ve killed him! I’ve killed him! It’s my fault.”

With this seeming confession, he is taken into custody, awaiting trial for the murder. But Darcy is torn between his dislike for Wickham, and a sense that the words, taken for a confession, might mean something else–that it was Wickham’s quarrel that drove Denny into the hands of his killer, and thus his fault. This is what Wickham, when he comes to his senses maintains. But who this murderer could be and how it was done remains unclear as Wickham goes to trial, defended by the able Jeremiah Mickledore.

It is my impression that James captures the manners and maneuverings that characterize the country houses in Austen, and the affection between Darcy and Elizabeth, such that those who love this genre will be at home. Yet I suspect this is neither the best Austen nor the best James. We barely know Captain Denny before he is killed. I did not feel strongly drawn to any of the characters and only rooted for Wickham because Darcy didn’t want him to be convicted. There is little in the way of a murder investigation and the plot relies on an eleventh hour confession.

As far as I can tell, this was the last work completed by James in her lifetime, when she was in her nineties (she died in 2014). It does not rival her Children of Men or the best of her Dalgleish stories. It is a pleasant diversion and was considered worth of a PBS Masterpiece adaptation in 2014. And it allowed James the satisfaction of having written a Jane Austen novel.

Review: On Reading Well

On Reading Well

On Reading Well, Karen Swallow Prior. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2018.

Summary: Makes a case that the reading of great literature may help us live well through cultivating the desire in us to live virtuously and to understand why we are doing so.

Karen Swallow Prior wants us to heed John Milton’s advice to “read promiscuously” great works of literature because they may help the reader distinguish between vice and virtue, and hopefully choose the latter. In doing so, Prior advances an argument contrary to most of contemporary literary criticism that argues against the purpose of teaching literature to form moral character, perhaps most famously argued in Stanley Fish’s Save the World on Your Own Time (review). Prior argues that great books do set before us not only examples of vice and virtue but help us see the telos or purpose or end of living a virtuous life.

Along the way, as she introduces her theme, she proposes some helpful advice for how we might read well, summarized here:

“Read books you enjoy, develop your ability to enjoy challenging reading, read deeply and slowly, and increase your enjoyment of a book by writing words of your own in it.”

Prior then leads us into the practice of reading literature with an eye to what great works might help us understand about specific virtues. Most of this work focuses on twelve virtues in three groups, with a discussion of that virtue being focused on a particular work. While other virtues may be found in each of these works, her discussion is focused around one virtue in each work. Here is how the work is organized:

Part One: The Cardinal Virtues
1. Prudence: The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding
2. Temperance: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. Justice: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
4. Courage: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Part Two: The Theological Virtues
5. Faith: Silence by Shusaku Endo
6. Hope: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
7. Love: The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy

Part Three: The Heavenly Virtues
8. Chastity: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
9. Diligence: Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
10. Patience: Persuasion by Jane Austen
11. Kindness: “Tenth of December” by George Saunders
12. Humility: “Revelation” and “Everything That Rises Must Converge” by Flannery O’Connor

One of the effects of reading Prior’s discussion is to introduce us to the vocabulary of virtue, one that may seem archaic for many, and yet is central to the well-lived life. Tom Jones’s observations of the imprudence of many helps us understand that prudence is “right reason direct to the excellent human life.” From The Great Gatsby, we discover that temperance is not abstinence but that “One attains the virtue of temperance when one’s appetites have been shaped such that one’s very desires are in proper order and proportion.” While chastity may often be regarded, in the words of C.S. Lewis, as “the most unpopular of Christian virtues,” we discover through Ethan Frome that “chastity is not withholding but giving” of our bodies in the right context, keeping faith that we say with our bodies what we’ve vowed with our lips and that individual chastity is nourished in a community that healthily values the living of chaste lives.

Prior’s discussion is nuanced, distinguishing between false versions of virtues as well as how each virtue is a mean between an excess and a deficiency. For example, from Jane Austen’s Persuasion, we learn not only that patience is born out of enduring suffering but also that patience is virtuous “only if the cause for which that person suffers is good.” It may not be a virtue to be patient with injustice!

One of the effects of reading this work was to make me want to read or re-read the works she explores in her book. Some, like The Great Gatsby or Ethan Frome, I read in high school. Her chapter on Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and her discussion of hope amid the dystopian setting of the book intrigued me enough to pick up a copy of the book.

I do find it curious that all but one of the writers she chose were westerners of Caucasian descent. The exception is Shusaku Endo and his fine work, Silence (review), in which she explores the virtue of faith. Perhaps her selection reflects her own academic area as a professor of English whose research has focused in the area of Eighteenth century English literature and the work of the Eighteenth century women’s writer, Hannah More. It might be valuable in future editions of this work (for which I hope!) to offer a reading list, perhaps organized around the virtues, of other great works, including those of non-Western authors and Western authors of color.

The book includes a discussion guide at the end, making this a great resource for reading groups, as well as for personal study. The work features delightful illustrations at the beginning of each chapter by artist Ned Bustard (who also drew the cover illustration).

Karen Swallow Prior makes a convincing case in this work for what many of us have intuited–that great literature can change our lives as we reflect on examples of virtue. And far from “spoiling” the great works she discusses, she opens them up in their possibility to instruct us such that we want to go out and read them for ourselves. But before you buy the works she discusses, I would suggest you pick up On Reading Well, because I believe it will enrich your reading of the other books.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown –The Sulphur Spring and Spring Water Trough

Sulphur Spring

Sulphur Spring

At one time Mill Creek Park had at least a couple springs that drew people from throughout the area who brought bottles to take the water home to drink. One of these was the Sulphur Spring. The Sulphur Spring was located on the east side of the Mill Creek Gorge below the Idora bridge. Dr. Timothy Woodbridge, who used the Old Log Cabin near Lake Glacier as his medical office, recommended the water as “spa water” to his patients. In a statement given in the July 23, 1900 Vindicator, Volney Rogers said, “I am glad so many persons are visiting this place. We intend to fix up the springs as soon as possible.”

The August 8, 1900 edition of the Vindicator reported, “There is a demand for electric lights, and the Vindicator has been requested that the necessity of such an improvement be called to the attention of the park commissioners.” Apparently people came from early in the morning to late at night to fill bottles with water from the spring, going on hands and knees to grope their way there at night. Crowds brought their own problems though. There were sanitary concerns as many dipped dirty bottles in the spring, making it less palatable for others.

Apparently Dr. Woodbridge’s claims were validated by many people. The August 8, 1900 article goes on to mention, “The water has worked such a world of good to so many people, that they cannot stay away, and the recommend the water cure to all of their friends for anything from an ingrowing toe nail to a broken leg.”

My grandmother swore by the health properties of a different spring, located near Slippery Rock Pavilion, filling a water trough. I remember going with her and my grandfather to fill up jugs of water. She claimed that it cured her of digestive ailments. I tasted some but didn’t think there was anything special about it. In “Mill Creek Park Remembered,” Robert A. Douglas writes, “At the bottom of the hill was the spring water trough. The cold refreshing water cascaded up or flowed down from an unusual faucet. We would always see how high we could make it rise. This was a really natural treat that attracted many people from all around. On hot summer days, people would bring lots of bottles to fill with the cold, clear spring water.”

Volney Rogers foresaw problems when the city decided to channel overflows from storm and sanitary sewers into the park’s waters. With the southward expansion of the city going into Boardman township, Rogers’ fears became reality and problems when high levels of e. coli and other bacteria in the waters made the lakes increasingly unsafe as well as the springs. In 1967, Mayor Anthony Flask recommended substituting city water in all drinking fountains, and subsequently the Sulfur Spring and the water trough at Slippery Rock were capped.

I have no idea why these waters were so popular and believed to have all kinds of curative effects. My grandmother swore by them, as did others I knew growing up. I suspect that whether there was water pollution or not, people today would not have been allowed to fill bottles and consume the water. I suspect liability concerns would have ruled this out. But these springs were yet another feature that made Mill Creek Park an attraction to area residents.

Review: 12 Faithful Men

12 Faithful Men

12 Faithful MenCollin Hansen and Jeff Robinson, editors. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2018.

Summary: Twelve thumbnail biographies focused on pastoral leaders who served faithfully through suffering.

Pastoral ministry is not for sissies, contrary to some popular stereotypes. The hours can be long, you often encounter people at their worst (and sometimes at their best), your call is to be faithful to God’s word, and a shepherd of God’s people. Sooner or later, conflict and criticism homes in on you. Pastors not only help the suffering. If they are at all faithful to their work, they are the suffering.

This is a book to give courage to pastors. It consists of twelve thumbnail biographies of faithful men (I would hope a companion volume on faithful women is forthcoming–there are a host of examples). Some are quite familiar: Paul, John Calvin, John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, John Newton, Charles Spurgeon. Some you may have heard of: Andrew Fuller, Charles Simeon, J.C.Ryle. And some like John Chavis, an early Black preacher; Janani Luwum, the Ugandan archbishop martyred under Idi Amin; and Wang Ming-Dao, a Chinese pastor who led the house church movement under Mao.

What they all have in common is that faithfulness in ministry led to some form of suffering. A number went to prison, including Paul, John Bunyan, Luwum, and Wang Ming-Dao. Others faced controversy with their people, including Calvin and Edwards and Simeon. Spurgeon struggled with the black dog of depression throughout his ministry. Chavis, highly educated and even a tutor of white children was barred from preaching, though licensed, simply because he was black.

Each of the biographers in this volume explore the ways these men were formed through suffering. For Paul, suffering portrayed what he proclaimed, focused him on eternal things, authenticated the integrity of his ministry and destroyed self-glory. Calvin came to understand through the suffering of exile the call to exile we all share. Prison plunged Bunyan into the scriptures such that Spurgeon comment that if you cut Bunyan, he would bleed “bibline.” Fuller learned through the heartbreaks of the death of his wife and son, and another wayward son, to give comfort to all who struggled with similar circumstances. Simeon pressed on despite great opposition in prayerful, humble expository ministry from which might be traced the University and Colleges Christian Fellowship in the United Kingdom, InterVarsity/USA and the ministry of John Stott, Kent Hughes and others.

I appreciate the inclusion of examples of African American, Chinese and African examples and would hope that the western Church might hear more examples of Christian faithfulness around the world. In a culture where it seems that the most common prayer is that things would go “smoothly,” the honest portrayal of the various forms of suffering that is the lot of faithful pastors is both a bracing word, and a welcome balm. I suspect many pastors wonder if they are alone, and if they have done something wrong if they are not “prospering.”

The biographies are short, rather than exhaustive, averaging about fifteen pages, making this ideal for devotional reading. While more lengthy and definitive works have been written about many, the focus on the theme of endurance through suffering and God’s provident work makes these pithy biographies welcome support amid the press of pastoral duties. Buy two of these, one for your pastor, and one to understand and pray for her or him (and other faithful pastors around the world).

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Why “Bob on Books” is Now on Facebook

Bob on Books Home

Screen capture of Bob on Books on Facebook 9/10/2018

You might have noticed in yesterday’s post that there is now a “Bob on Books” Facebook page. Facebook kind of forced me into it. For as long as I’ve had my blog, Facebook allowed scheduled automated sharing of my WordPress posts on my Facebook profile. Facebook blocked this capability at the end of July but allowed scheduled automated sharing to Facebook pages.

I suspect this is part of Facebook’s approach to dealing with “fake news” and “fake account” sites and the propagation of this material. But it was at least a minor inconvenience to many of us who connected our profiles to our WordPress blogs. It is still possible to manually post links from a blog to your profile, an extra step. Harder than that is that when Facebook broke the connection, it also cut my “follower count” on my blog by 2500 in one fell swoop. Now that may not be all bad, because I suspect a good number of my Facebook friends don’t look at my blog but were still counted as “followers.” But it meant taking the time to set up a page and inviting people to “like” and “follow” it. That certainly has the advantage of people “opting into” your content, and perhaps is a better indicator of interest. Maybe it is more honest.

There are several advantages beyond this of a page:

  • People interested in blog posts and other material can access this quickly.
  • It allows me to post polls, articles, photos and quotes, and a “question of the day” facilitating ongoing conversation to a greater degree than the blog.
  • Facebook provides a variety of metrics for pages that you don’t have access to on profiles. I can also get another indicator of the interest in individual blog posts.
  • It is easier to post on Facebook than the blog, which anyone on Facebook can do. On the blog, people need to set up a WordPress account (not necessarily a blog) to post comments, something not everyone wants to do.
  • For a relatively low expense, I’ve added 100 followers beyond my own circle of contacts in the last month. I tried promoting the website for the blog, but this led to very few additional blog followers. I haven’t promoted posts.
  • I don’t have a good sense yet whether the page has translated into more traffic on my blog, although my summer stats usually decline, and this year have been on the rise. Unfortunately, WordPress stats aggregate all “referrals” from Facebook, so clicks from my profile, my page, or posts in other groups (which I do a fair amount of) are all lumped together. It certainly hasn’t hurt, from what I can tell.

The big minus that you just have to deal with is that pages are a revenue stream for Facebook and they are constantly inviting you to promote the page, an individual post, and your website. For some reason, I find the page loads more slowly than my personal profile, perhaps because of all the extra analytics. I would like to see Facebook streamline this (it may be better for visitors than admins who see extra content).

This might be more “inside baseball” than some of you may like. What I hope might be the case is that the blog and the Facebook page complement each other and maybe foster a bit of a “Bob on Books” community of people interested in interacting about good books, their reading experiences and how all this relates to our pursuit of the good, the beautiful, and the true in our lives. Blogs allow more extended development of an idea or review of a particular work. Facebook pages afford the chance for briefer but more frequent posts and interactions. I hope you will visit both

I’d love to hear your feedback. Even after five years of doing this, I still feel I’m making it up as I go….

 

Overcrowded Shelves

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Bookshelves in my home office

Over at my Bob on Books Facebook page, I have a “question of the day.” Recently I asked whether people had more shelves than books or books than shelves. It was unanimous: everyone who commented had more books than shelves.

I have not reached a books-to-shelves equilibrium but here are some of the strategies I’ve pursued to keep the overflow under a measure of control.

1. I freely lend. I’m almost disappointed when someone does the rare thing of returning a book. Often, people ask to borrow books I’ve reviewed.

2. I donate books related to my work to a book grab for new employees in my organization.

3. I always ask whether I will re-read or use as a reference every book I read. If I keep it, another book (or three) has to go.

4. Library book sales are a great place to donate your books to a good cause. You clear your shelves, you give your books a second life with someone else, and you provide funds for “extras” for the library you love.

5. A variation on this is that I’ve donated some books to the theological library of the seminary where I’m an alumnus. I know that doesn’t fit everyone, but I also know it fits some of you.

6. Some have donated books to seminaries or other educational institutions in other countries. Either donate classics or newer scholarship and text books.

7. I do sell some of my books at Half Price Books. Increasingly, we walk out with money in our pockets. Recent books generally bring the best prices, so read it, and if you know you won’t read it again, sell it quick.

8. I know some have set up their own online selling and you can make more on your books by doing this, if you are willing to devote the time to it and give good service and value.

9. I try to find at least one book a day that I put on my donate/sell piles.

10. Finally, books fitly chosen and shared with someone actually interested in the book gives you the joy of passing along a book to someone you know will appreciate it. I find it always helps to ask first if they would be interested in reading it–otherwise, it can feel like you are just dumping your books.

This is one advantage of e-readers–one book or a thousand take up the same physical space. I would be even deeper in books were it not for the ones on my Kindle. Still, I like reading, and especially reviewing, from physical books.

Of course, I suspect there are other creative ways to deal with the overflow. Here are a few I could come up with.

1. Build something with them. I’ve seen great examples of book igloos online.

2. Insulate with them. Anyone know the R-value of books?

3. Use them to support a table or counter top.

4. Some big books make great door stops.

5. Or just do what most of us do and stack them, box them, squirrel them away and live around them.

6. Build or find an annex for your books. We have heard of a few used bookstores getting their start this way.

Have you come up with other creative ways to deal with your book overflow? If you are a reader, you likely will need to sooner or later!

Review: Steel Valley Klan

Steel Valley Klan

Steel Valley Klan, William D. Jenkins. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1990.

Summary: A study of Ku Klux Klan activity in the Mahoning Valley in the early 1920’s, its composition, and factors contributing to the rise and decline of its influence.

Beginning with the refounding of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915, there was a rapid rise in Klan activity throughout the United States in the early 1920’s, organized around fraternalism, nativism, and law and order, themes appealing to a broader cross-section of white Americans of northern European descent. Klan endorsements of political candidates played a significant role in many local elections. Historical studies have looked at this movement on a national basis and also looked at local manifestations–their distinct character, and the influences between local and national organizations.

Wlliam D. Jenkins, a professor of history at Youngstown State University researched Klan activity in the Mahoning Valley, in the cities lining the Mahoning River from Warren to Niles through Youngstown and Struthers, Ohio. At one time, in 1923 Klan activity in the Youngstown area reached a peak represented in a rally of 50,000 at “Dead Man’s Curve, celebrating victories in which Klan endorsed candidates won the mayor’s race, most of the city council seats, and all four school board seats.

Jenkins traces the rise of the Klan in the Mahoning Valley. Conditions were ripe for the Klan with the influx of both immigrants and blacks into the Valley seeking jobs in the rapidly growing steel industry. This was the time of Prohibition and the “blue laws,” and enforcement of such laws in immigrant and black communities became an issue in the city. Enter “Colonel” Evan A. Watkins, who became pastor of First Baptist Church in Girard, welcoming the Klan into his church. Jenkins traces the rise of his influence as pastor, and as editor of the Citizen newspaper, and a sought-after speaker at “100 percent” American functions. He advocated for a strong law and order emphasis throughout the Valley, a kind of moral crusade that was a response to the eastern and southern European Catholic and Jewish populations and the black populations coming into the Valley. The growing Klan presence identified candidates for the 1923 election who would pursue these values, and taking advantage of a non-partisan election, a result of a home rule initiative, succeeded in electing most of their candidates by uniting behind them in a crowded field.

Jenkins highlights several key findings in his research. One was that, contrary to previous scholarly opinion, Klan membership was not confined to working classes but crossed class and occupational boundaries. Also, Klan support was strongest among churches with a pietistic emphasis, not only fundamentalist churches but also many in the mainline denominations. It was sobering to discover that among these was the church I grew up in (thirty-some years earlier). Watkins skill in playing up the moral crusade aspects of the Klan and downplaying racist elements seemed key in lining up such support across such a wide cross-section of churches, organizations, and individuals. A notable opponent was the city’s major newspaper, the Youngstown Vindicator, whose opposition was pretty consistent throughout.

Jenkins also chronicles the decline of the Klan. A riot in Niles in 1924 between the Klan and the Knights of the Flaming Circle, an alliance of Irish and Italian opposition to the Klan served to intimidate the local Klan. Also, Watkins was shown up to be a ladies man and a fraud, was removed from his newspaper, and eventually fled the Valley. These events led all but the more extreme elements to disavow the Klan and from late 1924 on, their influence rapidly waned.

One always needs to exercise caution drawing parallels between historic events and the present. The rise of political movements that combine promises of moral advance with anti-immigrant and nativist appeals seems a perennial issue, and in other parts of the world as well as America. Is there a parallel between the support of the Klan’s efforts by a broad swath of the church establishment in the Valley for pietistic motivations, and the support of 81 percent of white evangelicals for a presidential campaign that was anti-immigrant, supported by nativist groups, and that promised court appointments and religious liberty protections?

I find it troubling that a former pastor from the 1920’s of the church in which I grew up was not troubled by “100 percent American” rhetoric and what this insinuated about Jews, Catholics, immigrant citizens and blacks in the Valley. Did law and order platforms and moral crusades for Prohibition and sabbath-keeping warrant turning a blind eye to the invidious elements that have always been a part of nativist groups?

Jenkins’ book raises those questions for me while casting light on a darker aspect of the local history of my home town. Sadly, I wonder if we will learn anything from these lessons of history.

Review: Evangelical, Sacramental, and Pentecostal

evangelical sacramental pentecostal

Evangelical, Sacramental, and PentecostalGordon T. Smith. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2017.

Summary: An argument for why the church at its best ought to embrace an emphasis on scripture, on baptism and the Lord’s table, and on the empowering work of the Spirit.

Don’t you hate it when a set of choices are presented to you as mutually exclusive options, when all are good and possible together? For example, apple pie or ice cream, or more seriously, being pro-life or pro-creation care. Gordon Smith contends that this is often the case with the three emphases of his title. Often, churches are either evangelical, that is scripture or Word-centered, or sacramental, emphasizing baptism and the Lord’s table, or pentecostal, focusing on the empowering work of the Holy Spirit in worship, witness, and growth in Christ-likeness. Smith asks, and then asserts, why shouldn’t the church be all three?

Smith begins his discussion with John 15:4, exploring what it means to abide in Christ as Christ abides in us, and how this is fulfilled in the grace of the Word written which witnesses to the Word Incarnate, in water, bread and cup that includes and nourishes us in Christ, and the Holy Spirit through whom Christ indwells us. He then traces the outworking of all this in Luke and Acts. He goes on to explore in the work of John Calvin and John Wesley, how the grace of God comes to us in all three of these ways. He then focuses a chapter on each of these “means of grace,” both elaborating how each has been expressed distinctively in the life of the church, and how they function in tandem with the other two.

  • The evangelical principle is rooted in the truth that God speaks in creation, in his Son, through the apostles and prophets, through their message inscripturated, and through those who proclaim the word in witness and instruction. Word and sacrament complement each other as those who hear and believe are incorporated into the church through baptism, and those who are taught of Christ are then nourished on Him at table. Likewise, the Spirit illumines our reading, our study, preaching and hearing of scripture, so that the Word becomes alive, convicts, and warms our hearts.
  • The sacramental principle reflect the material, enfleshed nature of creation, the Incarnate Son, and the visible body of the church. Visible symbols of water, wine, and bread are Christ-ordained gestures that speak of our inclusion in and ongoing fellowship (communion) with Christ. They visually demonstrate the message of the gospel but also have no significance apart from the words of institution. Likewise, these acts are not our acts but are “in the Spirit” and depend on the Spirit’s work to accomplish in us what they signify.
  • The pentecost principle reflects the immediacy of our experience of God through the Spirit, where the realities of scripture and sacrament are experienced. Smith talks about the two “sendings” of scripture and advocates that we need to experience both the redemptive work of Christ and the indwelling and empowering work of the Spirit through whom the fruits of Christ-likeness, as well as power for witness are fulfilled.

While I fully affirm Smith’s argument, I hope readers will not be put off by the three key words of the title. “Evangelical,” “sacramental,” and “pentecostal” all have negative connotations, that reflect abuses and failures of the church, but are not inherent in the principles these words represent. I think few would object to the idea that people are called to Christ and conformed to his image through the ministry of the Word, that they are included and nourished in Christ through baptism and the table, and that they are empowered for growth and mission through the Spirit. Smith puts it this way in his conclusion as he describes the new Christian:

“This new Christian would very much be a person of the Scriptures–knowing how to study, read, and pray the Scriptures and how to participate in a community that is formed by the preaching of the Word.

The new Christian would recognize the vital place of the Lord’s Supper, within Christian community, as an essential means by which the Christian meets God, walks with God, grows in faith, and lives in Christian community.

And, of course, the new Christian would know what it means to live in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, be guided by the Spirit, and bear the fruit of the Spirit.

In other words, the Christian would be evangelical, sacramental, and pentecostal. And the evidence of such would be that they live with a deep and resilient joy, the fruit of a life lived in dynamic union with the ascended Christ.”

Would we want any less, or other for new (or all) Christians? We do well, I think, to weigh the argument Gordon Smith makes, and consider where, in each of our churches, we may more fully lay hold of all Christ has for us. And it just may be that in so doing, we may more closely approximate the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic” reality we profess in our creeds.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Salt Springs

Evans Map Salt Springs_LI

Lewis Evans Map showing Salt Springs circled.

Do you know that the “Salt Springs” literally put the Mahoning Valley on the map? In fact, did you know that the word “Mahoning” is derived from the Lenape word “Mahonik” which means “at the lick.” In 1755 (41 years before John Young surveyed the area), Lewis Evans drew the above map, printed in Philadelphia by Ben Franklin, in which the location of the “Salt Springs” is noted. While the map is lacking in geographic accuracy, it highlighted what the earliest travelers through this area thought important. Salt.

Salt is essential to human health. It was used in the preservation of meat. One of its uses was cleaning brass. It had other medicinal uses. Indians in the area boiled water from the springs to produce salt for centuries. As it turns out, the “Salt Springs tract,” 24,000 acres in the vicinity of the Springs, was purchased by General Samuel Holden Parsons in 1788 and set up a station to extract salt from the waters. Sadly, he died on one of his trips, drowning in the falls of the Beaver Rivers in 1789. The land reverted to Connecticut. The site seemed to have an ill fate hanging over it. In 1786, a storekeeper was killed by Native Americans, and another salt maker in 1804. Reuben Harmon eventually acquired the land, somewhere between 1796 and 1801, according to different accounts. It never became a great salt-making operation–the salinity of the waters was too low to extract large quantities.

Salt springs

Salt Springs, from a painting by Joseph N. Higley, from a photograph taken in 1903, just prior to the springs being covered by railroad fill.

So exactly where were the Salt Springs? They were located in Weathersfield Township, west of present day Route 46 near the intersection of Salt Springs Youngstown Road and Carson Salt Springs Road. In 1903 the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad right of way filled in the springs. In 1949, Harlan Hatcher, in his book The Western Reserve, wrote:

“One lone spring continues to bubble up through a piece of drain tile. It has a feeble taste of salt and a stronger smell of sulpher.” 

In 1963, James L. Wick, Jr, took pictures of the site, showing the location of the stream. These photographs may be seen at the Mahoning Valley History blog. On June 30, 2018, an Ohio Historic Marker was dedicated at the nearby Kerr Cemetery by the Mineral Ridge Historical Society and the Ohio History Connection. The text of the marker reads:

Text, side A: A salt spring, located about a mile west of this site, was the primary attraction for immigrants to the Western Reserve territory in the mid-1700s. Prior to European-American settlement, Indians used the springs, boiling the water to extract the salt and using it for preserving meat among other uses. In 1755, surveyor Lewis Evans underscored the importance of the springs by noting it on his “General Map of the Middle British Colonies in America.” This enticed immigrants from western Pennsylvania to the region. In addition to the salt itself, the abundance of wildlife near the spring ensured good hunting in the area. (Continued on other side)

Text, side B:  (Continued from other side) In February 1788, Connecticut, which asserted ownership of the Western Reserve from the colonial period to 1795, deeded the Salt Spring tract to Samuel Holden Parsons, a pioneer of the Northwest Territory and former Continental army officer. In 1796, Reuben Harmon, an early settler in what became Weathersfield Township, purchased the springs. Although new settlers initially considered the springs an asset, the salinity of the water was too low to make the salt production profitable. In 1903, railroad tracks covered the once-famous salt springs. “Mahoning” is said to be derived from the Lenape word mahonink, meaning “at the [salt] lick.”

Salt Springs Road runs all the way from Austintown-Warren Road south of Warren to the west side of Youngstown, ending at the bottom of Steel Street. I grew up on the West Side  and often road my bike along there as a kid, in the shadow of the steel and industrial plants. We used to get pizza at Molly O’Dea’s. But I can’t say I ever had a clue as to how it got its name. It turns out, it was a vital early road connecting Youngstown and Warren to what they thought was a good source of salt, a critical resource. And it is a reminder of how our county and principle river got its name.